Claudia Massie

Internal affairs

This small, captivating show at Ingleby Gallery in Edinburgh is made up of ten melancholic paintings of great textural richness

The ten vignettes that punctuate the white walls of the Ingleby Gallery invite us to step into the many-chambered mind of Andrew Cranston. These densely textured and patterned figurative scenes of obscure meaning enthrall, drawing the viewer into a peculiar realm of fantasy where tortoises crawl for ever and infants abandon their toys to stare out of viewless windows.

Cranston’s painting is the kind that provokes extravagant responses from observers uncomfortable with art that refuses clearly to state its purpose. Read profiles of the artist and you will find much pontificating about ‘the despondent poetry of the creative process’, and so on. To my eyes, Cranston’s painting is about surface, colour and imagination. Narrative certainly lurks behind these scenes but it is never explicit. Spawned from diverse origins, it is open to endless interpretation. This is a good thing.

No supporting explanation is offered to help the viewer navigate these indeterminate images, although the gallery does say that Cranston is writing some explanatory text. Some will welcome this. Nevertheless, the works succeed without explanation, and may indeed be better off without it. Intense little interior scenes peopled by lonely figures, these paintings prompt emotional responses all by themselves and encourage the viewer to concoct a narrative of their own. Since Cranston’s work responds to the stimuli of memory and imagination, as well as to literature and film, it seems an appropriate extension of his own approach to engineer a similarly imaginative response in the viewer.

‘I am two’ is a haunting, and quite heart-breaking, painting. A small naked child sits on the floor, head turned to the pale window behind, through which nothing can be seen. Beside the child lie two toys — an elephant and a monkey. The walls and floor combine in a single plane of green and the scene resonates with loneliness.

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